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350 Attend Anti-Sex Trafficking Conference in Holland


Mary Whiteford is part of the Ottawa-Allegan Human Trafficking Taskforce, she organized the conference expecting 100 but that number tripled. Maybe, because she knew exactly what she wanted from the conference.  

“The bottom line I wanted to make sure everybody had an awareness, an understanding and that it was consistent. Out of this conference I want us to have a plan. So if somebody’s curious if they’re being trafficked, they know where to go. If somebody was trafficked, well we know the police, that aspect, and our healthcare providers. There’s a lot of people from Holland Hospital, Allegan Hospital who are here.”

Aside from tables featuring non-profits and community efforts against trafficking, the event featured FBI agents and even State Senator Judy K. Emmons.

“Quite frankly we tend to go pretty easy on the person who’s buying a trafficked individual. So we want to come down a little harder on that. We want some public humiliation, I’ll be honest, and we want some convictions.”

Jessica Klaus, a student at Hope College didn’t have quite the clarity going into the conference. She says she just became aware in a 21st Century slavery class in school. But, coming out, things came into slightly sharper focus.

“So I guess my plan moving forward is get aware, understand the signs and hopefully get more educated so I can raise awareness and tell other people so wherever they are they can look for it too and then hopefully we can become that bridge and connect them to hope.” 

Mariano Avila is WGVU's inclusion reporter. He has made a career of bringing voices from the margins to those who need to hear them. Over the course of his career, Mariano has written for major papers in English and Spanish, published in magazines, worked in broadcast, and produced short films, commercials, and nonprofit campaigns. He also briefly served at a foreign consulate, organized for international human rights efforts and has done considerable work connecting marginalized people to religious, educational, and nonprofit institutions through the power of story.
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